As the man responsible for the 60,000 sq metres of Manchester City Training ground, Main Stadium and Academy pitches, Grounds Manager, Roy Rigby, is devoted to developing the best pitches possible for Manchester City.
Roy joined the club ten years ago, after working at Blackburn Rovers Training Ground for twelve years. He manages a team of twelve staff across the five sites and isn't afraid to trial different products. In order to keep track of his work Roy keeps a diary of any problems he encounters, large or small, along with his actions to rectify them.
Roy has spent the last four years researching, observing and testing the Fibrelastic pitches, from Mansfield Sand, that have been installed in other Premier League stadiums and training pitches. He has witnessed, first-hand, the stadium and training ground pitches at Wolverhampton Wanderers, installed in 2010, and recorded their progress throughout the last season. He has also closely studied the performance of Newcastle United's Fibrelastic pitch at St James Park and their training pitches at Darsley Park, visiting on a regular basis since 2007. As a result he has formed a great relationship with Head Groundsman Michael Curran.
The player-friendly and hard-wearing nature of Fibrelastic, as well as how players reacted to the surface, prompted Roy to make the decision to install one of their own for the first team at their Carrington training ground. "I saw how the first team at Newcastle walked across several pitches just to get to the Fibrelastic training area. They realised it was the best surface to play on, which is why they have installed another one. The pitches performed really well last season, despite the extreme weather conditions suffered in the North East, and I'm excited about bringing it to the Man City training ground." He's satisfied that the new surface installed on the first team pitch will be well-received: "The players, coaches and physics will love it! It really is at the forefront of pitch technology and will help us to deliver a top-quality pitch for the first team."
Head Groundsman at the Carrington Training Ground, Lee Metcalfe, agrees with Roy after seeing how well the Fibrelastic training pitch performed during an intensive training session at Wolves. "We were lucky enough to witness the performance for ourselves during a visit to see Wayne Lumbard, Head Groundsman at Wolves. You could just feel the difference when you walked across it. We are all really looking forward to working on the new training pitch and I'm confident the end result will be well worth the hard work we've all put in."
The new pitch has been seeded with a new Barenburg formulation BAR 7 grass seed, to add to the hard-wearing properties of the Fibrelastic rootzone, which allows for a reduction in surface hardness, resulting in fewer injuries to players, together with an increase in surface resilience.
Roy's team started the renovations on the first team pitches at Carrington at the end of April and had completed them the by 1st July. Roy admits that, although it was hard work, his team, and the contractors
J. Mallinson, led by site manager Richard Aspinwall, did a great job, despite the time constraints. During this year's pitch renovations, approximately 300 bags of Barenbrug grass seed were used.
The club have a fleet of Toro Reelmaster 6700s as well as Ransomes Cylinder mowers for cutting. The pitches are marked out with a laser guidedline marker. However, Roy admits that he couldn't do his difficult job without the hard-working ground staff who work on the Manchester City sites, "We really do have the best staff working for us."
Roy dedicates so much of his time to researching new pitch technology and management techniques, in order to improve the overall playing performance of the pitches that some people joke that he loves grass more than his wife! Roy explains, "I enjoy being at the top of my profession, so it's important for me to understand the new products on the market, and to be able to choose the very best to establish and maintain our pitches to the highest standard."